New polling indicates that cultural anxiety was the primary motivation for members of the white working-class voters who cast a ballot for President Donald Trump in the November 2016 election.
On May 9, an analysis conducted by Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic found that party identification and cultural anxiety were more predictive factors for supporting Trump among the white working-class than was economic hardship, based on exit polling data.
Trump had won a larger margin of votes among the white working-class, or whites without a college degree, than any presidential nominee since former President Ronald Reagan in 1980. Overall, 67 percent of the white-working class voted for Trump, while only 28 percent backed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to the Pew Research Center.
The analysis of polling data indicated that this demographic's strong support for Trump was motivated foremost by cultural anxiety, PRRI reports.
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Ranking the most predictive factors for supporting Trump among the white working-class in descending order, the analysis found that identification with the GOP came in first, followed by fears about cultural displacement, support for deporting undocumented immigrants, economic fatalism and, finally, economic hardship.
The analysis found that 65 percent of white working-class respondents believed that American culture had deteriorated since the 1950s, while 48 percent agreed with the statement "things have changed so much that I often feel like a stranger in my own country."
The data also indicated that Trump's campaign message strongly resonated with the white-working class, who were more likely to be concerned about foreign influence diluting American culture than their demographic peers.
68 percent of the white working-class believed that American culture needs to be safeguarded from foreign influence, while only 44 percent of whites with a college degree agreed. 68 percent of the white working-class believed that the U.S. was in danger of losing its cultural identity, while only 55 percent of overall voters agreed. 62 percent of the white working-class also were concerned about immigration, stating that newcomers from foreign countries were a threat to American culture.
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Only 38 percent of the white working-class said that they were in positive shape financially, 35 percent said that they were in fair shape, while only 25 percent said that they were in poor shape. The data found that white working-class Americans who said that they were experiencing economic hardship were more likely to vote for Clinton than Trump.
On the subject of immigration, 59 percent of the white working-class said that undocumented immigrants should have a path to citizenship, while only 27 percent said that there should be zero-tolerance in deporting people living in the U.S. illegally.
The analysis also found that a majority of the white working-class viewed federal investment in education with skepticism -- 54 percent viewed seeking a college education as a risky gamble, while only 44 percent believed that it was worth the investment.
"The enduring narrative of the American dream is that if you study and get a college education and work hard, you can get ahead," PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones told The Atlantic. "The survey shows that many white working-class Americans, especially men, no longer see that path available to them. … It is this sense of economic fatalism, more than just economic hardship, that was the decisive factor in support for Trump among white working-class voters."